By Josh Brown
TROY — A million or more different factors go into winning even one state championship.
But for a school to win two in the same sport in a five-year span? The variables are immeasurable.
But that’s exactly what the Troy girls bowling team accomplished Saturday at the Division I state tournament at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl, the first team championship for the Trojans’ girls bowling team — in addition to an individual one — and the second for the school’s bowling program as a whole.
Troy has two state team titles — and both are in bowling. The boys team won in 2011, and before that the girls team was the state runner-up in 2009, the year Alicia Benson won a state title as an individual.
According to Troy girls coach Rob Dever, it all begins with hard work from the ground up.
“I think what we’ve tried to do is build and coach the kids well before they get into high school,” he said. “A lot of the same things we teach in grade school and junior high are what we do at the high school level, that way the kids aren’t surprised when they get here or starting from scratch. We also have a lot of offseason programs to help all the kids get ready. A lot of it is preparation. That way no one is coming in cold.
“Troy Bowl is also very generous. They give us discounted rates for coaching sessions, and we try to give the kids all the tools they need to become better before they even get here to the high school.”
Also, having success can breed more success.
“We feel fortunate, that’s for sure,” Dever said. “It’s taken a lot of hard work by a lot of good people that support the program. And because we’ve had that success, kids in grade school and junior high see that, and that bar is set high. It motivates them more. They want to be a part of that when they get to high school. Another key is folks like boys coach Doug Stone and assistant coach Danielle Rohr, and in the past former boys coach Cevin Wagner has been there and been a huge part of that success. It’s not just me. A lot of people have put in a lot of work for these kids. And we do have some bowling families and a lot of good bowlers in Troy.
“In the end, all of those things together help. It’s not only one thing. There’s no one magic solution. The kids have got to want work and get better. You can’t coach desire.”
But to put together this year’s state championship, it took an entire group of girls working together — all with the same goal.
Last season, a young but talented Trojan team qualified for the state tournament, but once there, they did not qualify for the final round of eight. They resolved to improve on that finish this year, kicking off the season with 14 straight victories, finishing 17-2 while claiming victories in both the Greater Western Ohio Conference preseason and postseason tournaments — as well as a number of other tournaments — and winning the GWOC North Division title heading into the sectional tournament.
“That kind of experience always helps in the postseason,” Dever said, referring to last year’s trip to state. “The competition is just so tough. Teams like Beavercreek and Centerville are such good teams, and knock heads with them all year long.”
And while the Trojans were led throughout the season by sophomore Jenna Stone — who won her second straight GWOC North Player of the Year award — and senior Rachel Darrow — who posted the best individual score, both girls and boys, at the GWOC preseason tournament — it took everyone’s efforts to get them to the state tournament, and then contributions from the entire lineup more once there to win it.
With both Stone and Darrow struggling at the sectional tournament, sophomore A’leigha Smith stepped up and posted the third-best overall individual score on the day, helping the Trojans take third as a team and move on to district. And at the district tournament, Stone won the individual title by posting the only 700-plus score on the girls’ side to lead Troy to a second-place finish as a team and on to state.
“Jenna and Rachel get a lot of attention, and deservedly so,” Dever said. “They can be intimidating to other teams when they’re on. But what carries us is the three other positions. We get such good, steady bowling from all of them. They’re just as much a key part of our team.
“When we needed her, A’leigha helped us get through the sectional. It’s a team effort all the way down to the two freshmen that filled the five-hole.”
And once at the state tournament, every pin was important.
Darrow and Stone led the Trojans during individual qualifying, with Darrow posting the third-best score overall and Stone the fifth-best score to help Troy earn the No. 3 seed going into the round of eight. In the best-of-five, head-to-head baker game bracket, the Trojans defeated both North Olmstead and Mentor in four games to advance to the state championship matchup against No. 1 seed Beavercreek.
With the title match tied 1-1, a Stone strike in the 10th frame gave the Trojans a 199-196 victory to put them one game away from the state title, then Stone rolled three straight strikes in the 10th of the fourth game to seal the match, 204-202.
In a matchup that close, every pin is equally important.
“That was incredible,” Dever said. “Jenna is a clutch bowler. It took everyone to get us there, too. A’leigha, Kirsten and Cassidy (McMullen) and Alyssa (Shilt) are just as much a key part of it. Without everyone else getting Jenna into that position, she has no shot to win it in that moment.
“Alyssa bowled solid in the five spot during individual qualifying, then Cassidy filled in great during baker. And in the eighth frame of that final game, Cassidy left a seven pin, and she’s a lefty. So we subbed in Alyssa to shoot the seven, and she picked it up. All of those things set Jenna up.”
And even if there’s no magic formula, the Trojans found a way to put everything together. Because it’s what they do.
“A lot of times, little things like that end up counting the most,” Dever said. “If you leave the door open, you’ve got to be ready to walk through it. And all of these kids are always ready.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.